The failure this week of the so-called congressional supercommittee to agree on a package to reduce the federal budget deficit comes down not only to Republican intransigence, but really to that of just one conservative in particular, a man referred to as the “13th member” of the committee.
Specifically, many on both sides — including Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, a prominent member of the supercommittee — called out Grover Norquist, the extremely powerful anti-tax activist in Washington, for his role in keeping Republicans from agreeing to any new taxes.
Norquist wields much of his power due to the anti-tax pledge signed by most Republicans in Congress, and his ability to enforce that oath by working to defeat any who renege. All six of the GOP members of the supercommittee had signed on to the Norquist pledge.
Perhaps this doomed the supercommittee from the start, given that Norquist had blessed the Republican supercommittee members this summer.
The supercommittee was supposed to recommend more than $1 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years to be considered by Congress on a fast-track basis. The panel, known formally as the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction, bogged down mostly on partisan lines, however.
Indeed, after the co-chairs of the bipartisan supercommittee announced that the panel would not be agreeing to a deal, the conservative editorial page of the Wall Street Journal ran an article headlined, “Thank You, Grover Norquist.”
“Democrats on the Committee made clear everything was on the table. Our offers were balanced. We walked the line of shared sacrifice, however difficult, and we proposed painful choices for programs we care about deeply,” says Kerry, who reportedly tried until the very end to get the supercomittee to forge a compromise. “However, we simply could not overcome the Republican insistence on making tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans permanent. We would not give another $550 billion tax cut to the wealthiest. Shifting the tax burden to the middle class was not the way to reduce the deficit. This was simply doctrine for some of our Republican colleagues, even as many worked very hard in good faith to find a better way forward.
“I believe it would have been unconscionable to ask middle class Americans to finance more tax cuts for the wealthy while seniors on fixed incomes paid the price,” Kerry adds. “People need to remember: The Committee was created to cut the deficit not to cut taxes for the wealthiest, the exact tax policies that didn’t create jobs and gave us deficits in the first place. The bottom line is that no Super Committee can succeed with Grover Norquist as its 13th member.”
YOU CAN WATCH A VIDEO PRODUCED BY SENATE DEMOCRATS ABOUT NORQUIST’S INFLUENCE HERE:
Scott Nance is the editor and publisher of the news site The Washington Current. He has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.